We know from years of research, including the 2018 Nonprofit Communications Trends Report by Nonprofit Marketing Guide, that nonprofits that use editorial best practices are much more likely to produce effective communications. That means more program participants, more donors, more volunteers, more awareness, and more overall engagement and understanding of your work.
If you want to be a more effective communications team (even if you are a team of one!), here are the four editorial best practices you need to implement.
#1: Drawing Out Your Big Picture Communications Timeline
Before you can get down into the nitty gritty details of what you say, and when and where, you need to get a much bigger perspective on the life and times of your nonprofit. I call it the “Big Picture Communications Timeline.” Mapping out the “Big Picture Communications Timeline” for the life of your organization helps you know what is happening and when over the course of the year. Month by month, map out the programmatic, fundraising, and marketing milestones, deadlines, events, and themes for the year.
Get it all on one timeline, so you can see where everything overlaps. This will very quickly help you see when you have too much to communicate and where you have some flexibility. It also helps you spot opportunities for program, fundraising, and marketing synergy that may have been overlooked.
#2: Using an Editorial Calendar
An editorial calendar includes three ingredients: the what, where, and when. It says what messages will be published in which communications channels and when, for at least the next two weeks. Editorial calendars can be simple spreadsheets or layered calendars all the way to more complicated and complete project management systems.
The software that you use for your editorial calendar is much less important that the strategy that goes into filling it out. Think about the mix of communications channels and the frequency with which you will update them. Does that combination work to deliver the right messages to the right people at the right time so you can meet your nonprofit’s goals?
#3: Holding Regular Editorial Meetings
Having an editorial calendar is a great start, but it’s not enough to maximize your effectiveness. You also need a system in place to make changes to your editorial calendar so that you can be more responsive. This usually takes the form of regularly scheduled editorial meetings, or in some nonprofits, the ability to frequently check-in with leaders who are good listeners and who can make decisions quickly.
You’ll host different kinds of editorial meetings. For example, on a quarterly basis, you might meet with program staff to understand their needs for communications support. Monthly, you can build out the editorial calendar another month forward. On a weekly or daily basis, you’ll meet to make final adjustments based on changes within your nonprofit or what’s happening out in the community.
#4: Strategically Repurposing Content
One of the key distinctions between newbie communications staff and seasoned pros is how strategic they are about repurposing content. I’m not talking about just posting your blog and e-newsletter content to social media.
Instead, I’m talking about planning all the different ways you will use a piece of content before you even create it. Will you write a short, medium, and long version? Will you create graphics or find photographs to go with it? Will you think about how that content can be used this week, next month, and six months or a year from now? Can you decide ahead of time how to repurpose the content for different groups of people in your community? Rather than just sitting down and banging out content day after day, strategic content creators think through these questions as they create, not after the fact.
It’s OK to take these four best practices one by one. But you’ll want to use all of them together to increase your communications effectiveness long term.
Kivi Leroux Miller is the founder and CEO of Nonprofit Marketing Guide, which helps nonprofit communications directors learn their jobs and love their jobs. Learn more about nonprofit editorial best practices here.